Thank you everyone for the time that you took answering my questions about your sewing machines. It really helped me to narrow my search quickly and isolate some key features that were important to me. Sewers seem to be very loyal to their brand of machine so I am certain that some of you think that I made a poor choice, while others are thrilled. I think that in many ways, I really couldn't go wrong with any number of choices.
I heard the best things about Pfaff, Bernina and Janome machines overall. Pfaff doesn't have a local dealer and that was important to me. I have also been told that they have a steep learning curve. Right now, with young children, time is so precious to me that I wanted to spend my time sewing, not learning to use my machine. I heard only good things about Bernina except that they were on the noisy side and costly. This Janome has all the features that I wanted, for much less money than a comparable Bernina. And the dealer is 10 minutes away. And they were having a sale this week. On top of that, I really haven't heard anything bad about Janome and learned that Janome even makes components of both the Pfaff and Bernina.
The key features that sold me on this machine were the AcuFeed layered fabric feeding system, the 9" x 5" bed space, 163 stitches (including lettering so I can make great quilt labels), and then all the nifty little bonuses like the knee lift for the presser foot, the speed control, automatic thread cutter and needle threader, 7 buttonholes, etc. The machine seems really intuitive so far and the manual is very clear and helpful.
My trusty Viking 350 sewing machine is being repaired. I will have it back in about a month. It needs a good cleaning and new feed dogs. Apparently, Viking feed dogs are aluminum and can wear out over time. I think mine have been badly worn for 3 years now but the last person that I took it to did diagnose it correctly.
In the meantime, last night was a Friday night sew in.
I didn't get anything sewn, much to my dismay. I bought myself some peppermint patties and lemonade and settled down at my machine to try to figure it all out. I have it straight stitching well but when I go for the decorative stitches, my tension is a problem. I have 2 hours of training coming to me so I will figure this out soon enough. I am sure that I am just missing a little something.
I hope to sew tonight! I have some birthday gifts for the month of April that need to be made!